ABSTRACT

The genesis and growth of minerals, as well as the existence in ore veins of such organic features as ‘seeds’, ‘matrices’, and ‘nourishment’, remained central and recurrent issues for natural philosophers, technicians, alchemists and practitioners throughout early modern Europe. By providing an overview of the main themes, voices, and concurrent factors (scientific, philosophical, economic, political, cultural, geographical, religious, social) that shaped the evolution of such long-standing dispute, this essay attempts a preliminary analysis of how the early modern understanding of mineral generation influenced our perception of natural exploitability, renewability and exhaustibility—and, more generally, the development of the Earth sciences and the emergence of humans as geological and environmental agents. These issues are also the subject of a new interdisciplinary project which is introduced in the final part of the article and which, hopefully, will be implemented in the next years with the aim to disclose new insights into our comprehension of the human-environment system.

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